Monday, December 17, 2012

Musica Della Sera Music Blogs now at KUSP Website

Announcement to Musica Della Sera listeners!

Meera Collier-Mitchell and I host Musica della sera, a classical music radio show heard Thursday nights 7-9:30 Pacific on KUSP, Santa Cruz.  I'm pleased to announce that the show now has a regular blog presence on the KUSP Blog Page.

Please bookmark the link to the new location: Musica della sera Music Blog.  You'll find a link there to our playlists, as well as posts with information about the music we play, and also music video clips related to the programs.

See you there!

─Nicholas Mitchell

Nota Bene
Comments, requests, suggestions, and feedback are encouraged and appreciated, especially during this launch period.  You can comment on individual blog posts, or tweet me at @puxxled or Meera at @MeeraHyphenated, or "friend" us on Facebook at Nicholas Mitchell and Meera Collier-Mitchell.

(With the advent of the Musica della sera blog on KUSP, I will no longer post program notes for the radio show here on my Positively Puzzled blog, but hope to resume contributing general content.)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Keyboard Stylings of Blasco de Nebra

Program Notes for Musica della sera broadcast of Thursday, November 29, 2012.  (Available for streaming until 12/6/12 on the KUSP Music Show Player.)

This week's program of Musica della sera opens with a keyboard composition of Manuel Blasco de Nebra (1750-1784).  He, like his father, was organist for the Seville Cathedral. He died young, and only a fraction of his compositions have survived─but enough to show his expressive talent. The influence of Domenico Scarlatti is immediately noticeable, but more the introspective sweetness than the dazzling virtuosity.  I only recently discovered this composer from this Harmonia Mundi recording that KUSP possesses  It features Spanish pianist Javier Perianes, also new to me.

The virtuosity and sweetness of Domenico Scarlatti follows in a performance of Georgian-American pianist Eteri Andjaparidze. I discovered Scarlatti in my young teens through the wonderful recordings of Vladimir Horowitz, so I'm quite at home hearing these harpsichord pieces played on piano. I hear a similarity of Horowitz's sensibility in Andjaparidze' interpretation.

I discovered the music of Francesco Maria Veracini on the same evening I discovered Blasco de Nebra, on the left side of the KUSP's vast classical music shelf; this has created wholly arbitrary association between the two composers for me.  Here is one of Veracini's violin sonatas featuring John Holloway.

Sammartini's Recorder Sonata in F Major is one of the greatest hits of the high baroque.  Michala Petri is just the highly acclaimed recorder virtuoso of our day to perform it.

Alessandro Scarlatti was Domenico's very prolific father.  Famous for his many operas, here is an instrumental work for a small ensemble, unusual in that its final movement is a virtuosic toccata for solo harpsichord. 

We hear trumpet virtuoso Maurice André plays two baroque concertos, by Vivaldi and Loeillet, as I continue my adventures in vinyl, revisiting the sounds of the past, of which the Musical Heritage Society was a big part.

The next three pieces are dedicated to my 9-year old son who is a few weeks in to learning how to play the trombone.  The Hosannah by Franz Liszt features the bass trombone that fairly makes the walls shake. The next two trombone pieces are by Bernhard Krol, a horn player now in his 90's, and celebrated 19th Century trombonist Friedrich August Belcke.

Next Dieter Klöcker, clarinet, and the Vlach Quartet Prague, perform Samuel Gardner's Hebrew Fantasy.  This is one of several delightful compositions on Jewish themes arranged for clarinet and string quartet in a  a 2-disc set on the CPO label: Esquisses Hébraïques: Clarinet Quintets on Jewish Themes.

The show concludes with two songs by Franz Liszt sung by Angelika Kirchschlager: "La Perla" (The Pearl), sung in Italian, and "Wandrers Nachtlied I: Der du von dem Himmel bist", by Goethe. This is Liszt's 3rd version from 1860.  The first version from 1842 is also featured on the Hyperion album.

La Perla (The Pearl) by Thérèse von Hohenlohe-Waldenburg

Sono del mare bianca la figlia,
son di conchiglia
pegno d’amor.
Nella nativa carcere oscura
vivo sicura
senza dolor.
Madre amorosa mi chiude in seno,
fronte sì pieno
di voluttà.
Aura non beo, luce non veggo,
eppur non chieggo
più libertà.
Ahi! se per forza dal fondo mio
tolta son io,
tratta lassù,
a lume giungo, l’aer respiro,
ma già sospiro
per schiavitù!
In vil mercato passo venduta
e rivenduta
col nuovo sol,
chi non si cura di mia bellezza,
chi l’accarezza,
chi sua la vuol.
Finché per ultimo forse in un serto
di spin conserta
io brillerò,
e come lagrima pendula al ciglio,
il duol d’esiglio
I am the daughter of the white sea,
I am the love-token
Of the shellfish.
In my dark native prison
I live in safety,
Without pain.
A loving mother holds me to her breast,
With a face so full
Of delight.
I feel no breeze, I see no light,
Yet I ask
No greater freedom.
Ah! If I am taken by force
From my bed,
And dragged up above,
I reach the light, I breathe the air,
But sigh
That I am enslaved!
In base trading I am sold
And resold
Each new day.
One ignores my beauty,
Another cherishes it,
And wants it for his own.
Until at last, in a crown
Of thorns,
I shall perhaps shine,
And like an eye’s quivering tear
The pangs of exile.

Wandrers Nachtlied, by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe     

    Der du von dem Himmel bist,
    Alles Leid und Schmerzen stillest,
    Den, der doppelt elend ist,
    Doppelt mit Erquickung füllest;
    Ach, ich bin des Treibens müde!
    Was soll all der Schmerz und Lust?
    Süßer Friede,
    Komm, ach komm in meine Brust!

Translation by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

Wanderer's Nightsong

    Thou that from the heavens art,
    Every pain and sorrow stillest,
    And the doubly wretched heart
    Doubly with refreshment fillest,
    I am weary with contending!
    Why this rapture and unrest?
    Peace descending
    Come ah, come into my breast!


Thursday, October 25, 2012

October Moment

Eating my linner on West Cliff in Santa Cruz just now I was blessed to watch a porpoise leisurely playing among the slow, low rolling waves. It reminded me of the times I've watched from a lawn chair a slightly younger Gabriel entertaining himself quietly and contentedly at a corner of the pool, engaged with pool toys and hydrodynamics, a moment of solitary peace between the raucous splashy times he'd have with other kids.

The Profit of Human Decency

The fundamental problem with the American economy is that corporations as a rule do not consider a decent standard of living for their employees to be a worthwhile expense.

They do not as a matter of policy take any role in improving the communities in which they operate when they could make a really big difference.

They do not recognize that their focus on the bottom line in the long run works against their interests.

They do not see the intrinsic value and humanity of bolstering the morale of their employees with decent pay, good benefits, and incentivizing profit shares.

They do not see the obscenity and recklessness of CEO salaries that are hundreds, even thousands!, of times higher than the average pay rate of their workers.

They do not see thriving lives of the individuals they employ as a damn fine accomplishment, an end in itself.

They reject the notion that the fundamental American value, the pursuit of happiness, and not the one-dimensional obsession of the pursuit of the mighty dollar, is what makes life worth living.

Working oneself to death at every level is rewarded. There is no time allotted to experiencing the wonders of life and the world, human creativity and beauty. No, the very idea is laughable.

No, actually, maybe the fundamental problem is that to raise these issues in polite Republican or Democratic company is considered almost fringe. It makes people uncomfortable, but yet it is so blatantly obvious if people just look at what's happened since the Reagan Revolution.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cleaning House on my Film Watching Log

It's been 10 months since my last confession, Father.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Modern Office Report Design

Condensed email exchange in which our hero gets feedback for a purchase report he created.

Nicholas: I’ve installed the new Purchase report in the Report Test Environment folder of the Report Manager site. Let me know if it looks good, or needs changes, or if you’d like me to move it into the main production XXX Report Set.

John: It looks good! I think it can be put into production, Kathleen?

Kathleen: I love it and Melanie thought it was great too.

Nicholas: Okay, the Purchase Report is now the newest addition to the XXX Report Set.

John: I’m not so sure about the colors…

Nicholas: Now you tell me! (The report writer utility created the color scheme. )

John: I don’t really care, I’m kidding…

Kathleen: I like the soft green and yellow. Seems fresh and a little organic, kind of like daisies in a meadow on a warm springtime day.

Nicholas: As I was saying, I took great care to craft the color scheme for maximal user-friendliness.

John: You guys are both sick…

Kathleen: Sweet!

John: See attached

Nicholas: Laughing my ass off…I mean, LOL.

Kathleen: Made my day. Thanks.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

On Twitter it's not about who you know, but who blocks you...

It's getting harder and harder to remember all the notable people who have blocked me (@puxxled) on Twitter. Most are understandable, people I've disagreed with stridently, but hopefully with intelligence and some humor. Others are people whose work and ideas I enjoy, and wish to engage and share ideas with for the fun of it. The frustrating thing is, one doesn't usually get an explanation when someone decides to block you with one blip of the block button; getting rid of you like a gnat on an elbow. In most cases, the exact issue that triggered it isn't clear. Often you don't find out till weeks later. I'm kind of sensitive to being blocked, it can bum me out for days. Okay, oversensitive.

But in a way, it's kind of intriguing wondering why they did. I decided the best way to keep track of this rarefied group was to corral them all into a blog post, so here goes.

You always remember your first. Mine was Joe Scarborough, a former Florida Republican Congressman (he beat out Democrat Vinnie Whibbs in 1994 (who all remembers Vinnie Whibbs nowadays? Pensacolans, that's who!) who hosts a conservative talk show on MSNBC called "Morning Joe". I've never actually watched his show (you see, I've never wanted to purchase cable TV, ) but he was in the political mix of people I followed on Twitter. I didn't tweet him often, but apparently, as I learned later, it doesn't take much to get him to block you. (There's a veritable club of folks blocked by Joe on Twitter.) I have no idea what I might have tweeted to tick him off, but it was no doubt some principled progressive snarky thing, threatening only in the sophistication of its wit (People soon learn that I'm my own biggest Twitter fan).

Getting blocked doesn't mean you can't read their tweets, though it makes it slightly less convenient to do so. It means they don't have to see the tweets you direct to them specifically.

I'm not sure who the second person was to block me. It might have been author Jennifer Weiner. I never heard of her until she wrote an article criticizing the favoritism fellow novelist Jonathan Franzen seemed to be getting for his book Freedom at the expense of female writers of equal stature (Franzen actually agreed with her, to some degree). I don't remember exactly what I tweeted, but I defended Franzen against something Weiner had written about him. I didn't have any further interaction and only found out she had blocked me when I decided to compile a Twitter list of the Time's 140 Top Tweeters, as a service to other people on Twitter who might be interested. I couldn't add her to my list, because she had blocked me. (And she only made the Time's list because doesn't have a Twitter account, ha, ha.)

Standup comedian Paul F. Tompkins was another person I liked on Twitter. He and Chris Hardwick (@nerdist), on the latter's podcast*, turned me on to the BBC 4 radio series In Our Time, for which I will always be grateful. I began listening to Tompkins' podcast (the Pod F. Tompkast) from its inception, and gave him feedback and gleefully promoted it on Twitter.

But I also overdid it with the twitter response, I realize. In fact, I asked him repeatedly how one goes about accessing In Our Time until I got an exasperated response in which he hinted at the file-sharing site option, while berating me for not knowing how to use the Internet. Ultimately that was helpful, and I continue to enjoy the treasure trove of Melvyn Bragg's erudite series.

One time on Tompkins' podcast he played a clip from a standup performance in which he told the story of a fan who had emailed his dissatisfaction with one of his live shows. It is a very funny story, beautifully drawn-out, that ends with a rather intense tirade against the fan that, while brilliant, made me uneasy. After thinking about it for a few days, I realize I identified with the fan, and wondered out loud (on Twitter, that is,) if I would find much enjoyment listening to his podcast the next time. Well, there it was. He blocked me from his main account and his podcast account (@Pod_F_Tompkast). Well, at least in this case I know exactly why, and the exact offending tweet.

Right now I feel a little practical schadenfreude that Tompkins didn't make Time's 140 list (as well he might have) because, otherwise, my Twitter list would be short two instead of one.

My biggest blow came when I discovered that John Cusack had blocked me. I'm a genuine fan of his movies, but also appreciated his playful free-spirited twitter presence. He would go on long late night riffs, sometimes they didn't make a lot of sense, and were replete with misspellings. Occasionally I would respond, naturally inclined to match his tone of expression...silly, spontaneous, nothing I can recall now a couple of years later. I have no idea why he blocked me. Maybe because he just found my tweets obnoxious. Or he misunderstood me entirely.

Cindy McCain was an interesting case. I admired her for contributing to the campaign against violence directed at the gay and lesbian community and opposing California's Proposition 8, but then was astounded when she came out in support of her husband Senator John McCain's vehement opposition to the repeal of DADT.

She seemed to handle the views I expressed to her on that issue, and subsequently responded with interest about a controversial Arizona issue she hadn't heard about (I forget which one, now, there have been so many). I think what got me blocked was that I made an admittedly tactless comment about an unflattering photo she was using on her Twitter profile that showed her with the NO H8 duct tape over her mouth. My tweet was worded badly, bluntly, probably reflecting my anger about the DADT hypocrisy, and prompted a brief little flurry of backlash from her supporters on Twitter (i.e., 4 or 5, which is a lot for me). Anyway, I regret that tweet, and at this moment I would like to apologize to Cindy McCain for it. It was terribly rude.

I don't remember saying anything over the top with Dana Perino, former White House Press Secretary to GWB. Clearly our politics are on opposite ends of the spectrum. But she made a lot of simplistic comments parroting GOP talking points, and I'm sure I made some snide replies. She also posted some cute pictures of her dog, and I made what I thought was a positive comment. Who knows. Maybe she simply objected to the liberal political content of many of my tweets. Anyway, I'd rather someone tell me what they think than simply block me.

Most recently I discovered that illustrator Dyna Moe blocked me. I first discovered her from watching Mad Men. She did beautiful illustrations of characters and scenes from the series. A special feature on one of the DVD collections was an interview with her that revealed her wry sense of humor and keen perception. I then discovered that her tweets are also full of humor and an artful, sometimes sardonic way of seeing the world, particularly the things that happened to her, the people she encountered, day to day.

At one point, though, she made it clear that my enthusiasm for her tweets bugged her, and in no uncertain terms she told me to back off. I thought I had done so. Once in a while I would recommend her, along with others, as a fun person to follow. Occasionally I would retweet something funny or interesting she had tweeted, whether it be a comment or one of her illustrations. But it wasn't that often, really, these past few months. That's why I was surprised to discover just yesterday that she had blocked me. Maybe she just was tired of seeing the tweets I directed to her. Simple as that. It's not her fault, there's no reason she should pay me any heed, but it makes me sad.

I have a feeling I have forgotten someone, and of course there must be a few notables whose blocking I have yet to discover. There's no announcement to that effect unless one goes looking. Likewise, the chances of becoming unblocked are practically nil, because, as far as I know, there's no way for people to see who they've blocked, even if they happened to decide they wanted to reconsider.

Friends have tweeted John Cusack on my behalf, to know avail. That's the one that really pains me, but at this point it's become kind of a running joke. He's made some great movies, that's for sure. That should be good enough.

It's funny that I feel compelled to blog about the notable people who have blocked me, but there are many, many more who have taken the time to respond, and as aggravatingly isolating and time-wasting a place as Twitter can be, it's pretty cool that we average unnotable folks have a convenient means to make contact with the people who touch our lives in the news, the arts, the media, even history.

Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC)
Jennifer Weiner (@jenniferweiner)
John Cusack (@JohnCusack)
Paul F. Tompkins (@pftompkins)
Cindy McCain (@cindymccain)
Dana Perino (@DanaPerino)
Dyna Moe (@DynaMoe)
Alec Baldwin (@abfalecbaldwin)
William Shanter (@williamshatner)
Zach Braff (@zachbraff)
Adam Baldwin (@AdamBaldwin)
Judith Owen (@judithowen)
Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC)
Donald Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

*The Nerdist Podcast offers wonderful informal, intimate, and often ribald conversations with comedians and actors, and other folks as well, but I remember the comedians and actors best. I highly recommend giving it a listen, but only if you find people interesting and the occasional dick joke well within the realm of perfectly acceptable humor. Chris Hardwick is one of the most affable and funny hosts you'll find anywhere these days.

UPDATE: February 12, 2012

Well, I think I have figured out why John Cusack unfollowed me on Twitter way back when. The answer is in this recent tweet of his:
always- rember shocko doesnt spell check and blocks the spell obsessed becouse he can...RT : silent "v" in goodnight?" 8 Feb
I believe Shocko was John Cusack's original Twitter handle. I am almost certain that I once tweeted at his expense in response to what I thought was an amusing typo. I see now that he is very sensitive about this. I can amuse myself with the notion that he'd probably have a million followers by now if he didn't block all the spelling nazis. It's enough for closure on this petty matter.

Meanwhile, this weekend, John Cusack's nephews, Dylan and Miles Burke (@BurkeDylan and @MilesCBurke), began tweeting in earnest. With less exuberance at this point in time, their mother Joan Cusack then bowed to social and/or family pressure to join Twitter (@realjoancusack) as per this tweet of her son Dylan.